Where to Try Traditional New Zealand Food?
Where to Try Traditional New Zealand Food?

Where to Try Traditional New Zealand Food?

© Whakarewarewa Living Maori Village – Destination Rotorua

What and Where to Eat in New Zealand

Exploring a new country is all about experiencing a new culture and includes trying the local cuisine. If you want to eat like a local during your trip to New Zealand then these are the foods and places to eat to get an authentic New Zealand foodie experience. We’ll go through where to try traditional New Zealand food in this article.

As the world’s newest nation and the latest large country to be settled, New Zealand isn’t exactly steeped in traditional cuisines like you will find in other countries. New Zealand has a mix of Western, Polynesian and Asian influence when it comes to what New Zealander’s eat. However, there are a few food staples that New Zealand has made their own, from traditional methods for cooking food used by the Maori to sweet deserts invented in New Zealand. What’s more, it’s the quality of the food that the land and sea in New Zealand produce that makes the food in New Zealand special.

For more foodie goodness, be sure to check out 11 Foods You Have to Try in New Zealand and The Foodie Guide to New Zealand.

New Zealand Snacks to Look Out For

When you’re on the road make sure you pick up these popular Kiwi snacks from any supermarket or convenience store!

  • Whittaker’s Chocolate
  • Jaffas
  • Chocolate Fish
  • Pineapple Lumps

… And try these from any local bakery or cafe!

  • Lamingtons
  • Afghan Biscuits
  • ANZAC Biscuits

For more food to try, see 17 Awesome New Zealand Foods.

Where to Try Traditional New Zealand Food?© NZPocketGuide.com


What was once a common cooking method used by the Maori for more than 2,000 years is still used today for special occasions. Hangi is the process of cooking food in an underground oven, usually heated by hot stones, for several hours. The food usually cooked are meats, like lamb, chicken and beef, and root vegetables like carrots, kumara (sweet potatoes) and potatoes. Maori tours offer the chance for visitors to try this traditional food in New Zealand for themselves. Here are some of the best places to try a Hangi in New Zealand:

Where to Try Traditional New Zealand Food?© Pixabay

New Zealand Seafood

With more than 15,000km (9,320 miles) of coastline and waters teaming with ocean-goodness, it’s no surprise that seafood is one of the staple foods of New Zealand. Where are the best places to try seafood in New Zealand?

Green-lipped Mussels: Havelock

These endemic mussel species have been part of the New Zealand diet for hundreds of years. It’s traditional to gather shellfish, like the green-lipped mussel, from the shores, however, they are readily available to buy in supermarkets across the country. However, the best place to try green-lipped mussels prepared in the tastiest ways, you’ll need to head to Marlborough, where 80% of New Zealand’s aquaculture is based. More specifically, the Marlborough town of Havelock boasts itself as being the “Greenshell Mussel Capital of the World”. Havelock’s dinner cruises (more info on Viator and Tripadvisor) and local restaurants all serve fresh and fantastic green-lipped mussels.

Whitebait: West Coast

Whitebait is immature fish, usually only a couple of inches long, and New Zealanders absolutely love to eat it! The West Coast of the South Island is where the largest volume of whitebait can be found and whitebait is one of the very few native fish species that can be harvested and sold. Every September and November, locals flock to the West Coast river banks, sometimes on self-made jetties, with buckets and nets to catch this high commodity. One of the must-try meals from whitebait is whitebait fritters, essentially whitebait in an omelette, which is best got from the West Coast town of Haast, specifically from the Curly Tree food stand. Find out how to make your own whitebait fritters here.

Bluff Oysters: Bluff

Bluff oysters, or dredge oysters, are only found in New Zealand and Chile. They are a prized delicacy which is harvested from the Forveux Strait between the South Island and Stewart Island every March to August. While Bluff oysters can be tried all over in New Zealand, the freshest and best place to try them is at the source, Bluff at the southern end of the South Island. Try them at Fowlers Oysters and Oyster Cove.

Fish & Chips: Raglan

A meal that was introduced in New Zealand by British colonisation but enhanced in New Zealand thanks to, well, better seafood, fish & chips considered the classic New Zealand meal! Consisting of fried battered fish and fries, you’ll be able to try fish & chips in most coastal towns in New Zealand. Picking a best fish & chips in New Zealand is extremely controversial, but one worth mentioning is Raglan Fish in the Waikato region of the North Island.

© Lake Taupo Lodge - Tourism NZ

New Zealand Roast Lamb

Tender and succulent, roast lamb is a must-try in New Zealand. As New Zealand’s top export meat, it’s held in high regard all over the world, so try roast lamb in the country that makes it great. Lamb is usually slow-cooked with rosemary and a side of steamed vegetables. Most high-end restaurants will serve lamb on the menu, however, here are some of the best places to try lamb in New Zealand:

  • Pedro’s House of Lamb, Christchurch
  • Roaring Meg’s Restaurant, Queenstown
  • Salt on the Waterfront, New Plymouth
  • Emporium Eatery & Bar, Napier
  • Forsters Mahana, Nelson
  • Lake Taupo Lodge, Taupo
NZPocketGuide.com© NZPocketGuide.com

New Zealand Desserts

Another British colonial influence in New Zealand is the “sweet tooth”. New Zealand has proudly invented a few amazing deserts which they hold as signs of national pride. The most famous being the pavlova and hokey pokey ice cream.


This meringue-based dessert with whipped cream and fresh fruit has been on the tables of many Kiwi families for almost a hundred years. There’s a rivalry between New Zealand and the Australians as to which country actually invented the pavlova. Surprisingly though, not as many restaurants serve pavlova as you might think, being that it’s quite a complex dessert to make from scratch (and the premade pavlovas some restaurants serve just isn’t as good!) Nevertheless, here are few places you’ll be able to find the ‘Pav’!

  • Floriditas, Wellington
  • Willowbank Wildlife Reserve, Christchurch
  • Cibo, Auckland
  • Yesteryears Cafe, Tuatapere

Hokey Pokey Ice Cream

Ice cream with honeycomb pieces inside is known as hokey pokey ice cream here in New Zealand. While it’s readily available in supermarkets and ice cream stands throughout the country, here are a few special places to try it:

  • Pokeno Takeaways, Pokeno
  • Giapo, Auckland
  • Patagonia Ice Cream, Queenstown
  • Black Peak, Wanaka
  • Rush Munro’s Hastings
  • Copenhagen Cones, Tauranga


Laura S.

This article was reviewed and published by Laura, editor in chief and co-founder of NZ Pocket Guide. Since arriving solo in New Zealand over 10 years ago and with a background in journalism, her mission has been to show the world how easy (and awesome) it is to travel New Zealand. She knows Aotearoa inside-out and loves sharing tips on how best to experience New Zealand’s must-dos and hidden gems. Laura is also editor of several other South Pacific travel guides and is the co-host of NZ Pocket Guide’s live New Zealand travel Q&As on YouTube.

Was this article useful?

Share on facebook
Share on pinterest
Share on twitter